''The View' ' : I Was in the Audience When Sunny and Ana Tested Positive for COVID — Here's How It Unfolded

PEOPLE editor Nigel Smith recounts his behind-the-scenes experience at Friday's broadcast of The View, where hosts Sunny Hostin and Ana Navarro were escorted off the set after testing positive for COVID-19

I knew I'd be witnessing history when I was asked to attend a live taping of Kamala Harris' first in-studio talk show appearance as Vice President on ABC's The View. And while I saw history being made on Friday morning at ABC Studios, it wasn't for that reason.

The excitement was palpable upon entering the studio after being thoroughly checked and patted down by the United States Secret Service, who were there to ensure the Vice President's safety. As a longtime fan of The View, I of course snapped a selfie from my seat before being asked to take a seat closer to the stage. Two women in tiaras and sparkly outfits caught my eye. For many there, this was a celebration.

That is… until it wasn't.

The View
The View

The show kicked off with Joy Behar announcing that Whoopi Goldberg had to unfortunately sit out from interviewing Harris because she was still struggling with sciatica, nerve pain from an injury or irritation to the sciatic nerve. From there, Behar, co-hosts Sunny Hostin and Sara Haines and guest co-host Ana Navarro launched into the Hot Topics segment, with Harris expected to appear after the first commercial break.

For more on Sunny Hostin and Ana Navarro being asked to leave The View set after testing positive for COVID-19 and other top stories, listen below to our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day.

Behind the scenes, the break appeared to be going smoothly, with Haines, 44, having her hair fluffed up by a member of the hair and makeup team and Behar, 78, going over her questions for Harris. Navarro, 49, seemed to be in great spirits, engaging with the audience and smiling. At one point, she even addressed a couple who revealed to the audience warmup staffer that they had just gotten engaged.

Things took a turn from there.

I could sense some mild commotion on set shortly before The View was to return from break, with Navarro and Hostin, 52, both walking off set as cameras were about to roll. Behar and Haines didn't seem alarmed, so I thought nothing was wrong. But as they were attempting to exit the stage, Hostin and Navarro were suddenly escorted back to the table. Both women looked confused as they returned to their seats. Behar repeatedly asked the producers what was going on.

And then they were live.

"There seems to be something happening here that I'm not 100 percent aware of," Behar said as the show resumed. "Can someone please apprise me of the situation?"

Hostin and Navarro were then asked — again! — to leave the set, with a producer explaining their sudden absence as a "tease" for what was to come. Another commercial break was suddenly announced on-air by Behar. We were left watching Behar and Haines alone at the table, both clearly flummoxed by what had just happened.

After being briefed by a producer, Behar then addressed the audience, telling us that positive COVID-19 test results had come in for Hostin and Navarro while the show was taping. Cue the gasps from the crowd — mine included!

ANA NAVARRO sunny hostin the view test positive for COVID
Sunny Hostin (left), Ana Navarro on Friday's show. The View

There was little time to process what had just occurred, as producers began to scramble about how to pad out the show with Harris now delayed because of the situation and two hosts gone. There was talk of whether Harris would now be appearing virtually from somewhere in the building. The idea of continuing with Hot Topics was also brought up. Right before coming back from commercial, the producers instructed Behar and Haines to keep the show going by taking questions from the audience.

But first, Behar had to address the elephant in the room for the viewers at home.

"Since this is going to be a major news story any minute now, what happened is that Sunny and Ana apparently tested positive for COVID," she told cameras. "No matter how hard we try, these things happen. They probably had a breakthrough case and they'll be okay, I'm sure, because they're both vaccinated."

From there, they took audience questions until they cut to the next break. During the break, everyone in the crowd was buzzing about what they had just witnessed. The woman next to me shared that she was getting married in two weeks and was now concerned for her health given what had occurred.

It was still unclear if Harris was going to appear on the show at all, so I took the opportunity to ask Behar and Haines a question related to the chaotic day: "Hi, I'd like to know what's going through your heads in light of what just happened?"

The View
The View (2)

"What the heck is going on?" Haines replied to big laughs, while Behar said: "We got an adrenaline rush because we know that we have to think on our feet. I have many years of experience thinking on my feet. I was a standup comedian for many years."

It was then time for the next commercial break, during which we learned that Harris would be appearing virtually from another room in ABC Studios — and then The View was back to business as usual!

Harris' appearance ended up being a brief 10 minutes, with Harris sending her well wishes to Hostin and Navarro, praising both as "strong women."

Kamala Harris on The View
The View

When The View went off the air, both Behar and Haines exhaled a loud sigh of relief, with Behar exclaiming, "Woah," loud enough for the audience to respond with applause and awkward laughter.

A producer came on set to inform everyone that rapid COVID-19 tests had just come back negative for Hostin and Navarro. It wasn't long until the audience was escorted out of the building.

As I walked out into the daylight still processing what had just transpired, reporters stationed outside asked some audience members about the wild turn of events.

I headed straight to the nearest COVID-19 testing facility.

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